Dress Code Dilemma: Unpacking the Why Behind Golf Dress Codes

A woman standing in front of the mirror putting her hair back

Golf, a sport long associated with elegance and tradition, has always had its fair share of rules and regulations. One area that often sparks debate is the dress code. Many golf clubs have strict guidelines dictating what golfers can and cannot wear on the course. This article aims to delve deeper into the reasons behind these dress codes and explore the various perspectives surrounding them.

The History of Golf Dress Codes

Golf's origins can be traced back to 15th-century Scotland, where the sport was played by the elite. At that time, golfers wore simple, comfortable, and functional clothing. However, as the sport evolved and gained popularity, so did the expectations for appropriate dress.

Golf dress codes have undergone significant changes throughout the years, reflecting shifts in society's fashion norms. Early 20th-century golfers embraced a more formal style, opting for tailored trousers, collared shirts, and ties. The dress code symbolized the sport's exclusivity and sophistication.

The Evolution of Golf Attire

In the 1960s and 1970s, golf fashion underwent a revolution. Players like Arnold Palmer and Gary Player brought a more relaxed and casual approach to the sport, influencing golf attire worldwide. Polo shirts, lightweight trousers, and khaki shorts became standard on the golf course.

However, it wasn't just the professionals who were shaping the fashion landscape of golf. Amateur golfers also played a significant role in the evolution of golf attire. As the sport became more accessible to the masses, everyday golfers began experimenting with their clothing choices, adding their flair to the course. Bright colors, bold patterns, and unique accessories allowed golfers to express their individuality.

There has been a trend towards blending comfort and style in recent years. Technical fabrics that provide freedom of movement and moisture-wicking properties have become popular, allowing golfers to perform at their best while looking fashionable. Golf apparel brands have embraced this trend, creating clothing lines that combine functionality and modern design.

Influential Figures and Their Impact on Golf Fashion

Several influential figures have left their mark on golf fashion throughout the history of the sport. Professional golfers can shape sports trends from John Daly's colorful and eccentric outfits to Tiger Woods' modern and athletic style. Their brand and on-course attire play a significant role in influencing what golfers wear.

Golf fashion icons like Greg Norman and Annika Sorenstam have also made an impact, showcasing elegance and sophistication in their attire. These trailblazers have inspired professionals and amateurs alike to take their fashion choices seriously. Their attention to detail, from the fit of their clothing to the selection of accessories, has elevated golf fashion to new heights.

As golf continues to evolve, so too will its dress codes. The sport's rich history and the influence of fashion-forward individuals ensure that golf attire will always be a topic of discussion. Whether it's the classic elegance of the past or the modern and innovative designs of the future, golf fashion will continue to captivate and inspire golfers around the world.

LPGA Recent Dress Code Update Raised Some Controversy 
In 2017, the LPGA ignited mixed reviews with the release of its updated Tour dress code, and they weren't messing around. A few topline changes are:
  • Racerback with a mock or regular collar are allowed (no collar = no racerback)
  • Plunging necklines are NOT allowed.
  • Leggings, unless under a skort or shorts, are NOT allowed
  • Length of skirt, skort, and shorts MUST be long enough to not see your bottom area (even if covered by under shorts) at any time, standing or bent over.
  • Appropriate attire should be worn to pro-am parties. You should be dressing yourself to present a professional image. Unless otherwise told “no,” golf clothes are acceptable. Dressy jeans are allowed, but cut-offs or jeans with holes are NOT allowed.
  • Workout gear and jeans (all colors) NOT allowed inside the ropes
  • Joggers are NOT allowed

After the LPGA Dress Code change, several notable LPGA players challenged (or broke) the dress code as noted in this Secret Golf Tour You Tube Story.  Kinona also covered this update in a previous blog post here.  

It can be a fine line to tow for maintaining consistency in the sport yet allowing personal freedom of expression on the course.  Let's delve into it a littler further.

Understanding the Purpose of Golf Dress Codes

While some may view golf dress codes as outdated and unnecessary, there are valid reasons behind their existence.

It's essential to recognize that golf is not just a sport but a tradition deeply rooted in history. The attire worn on the course is a nod to the game's origins and serves as a way to pay homage to its heritage. When players adhere to dress codes, they show respect for the game itself and the long line of golfers who have come before them.

Respect for the Game and Tradition

Golf has a rich history and strong ties to tradition. Dress codes preserve the sport's heritage and ensure players respect the game. By dressing in a manner befitting the sport's traditions, golfers contribute to the overall atmosphere and sense of camaraderie on the course.

Golf dress codes help instill a sense of discipline and decorum among players. Attention to detail in one's attire reflects a deeper understanding of the game's values and principles. It's not just about looking the part; it's about embodying the spirit of golf both on and off the course.

Maintaining a Professional Atmosphere

Golf is often associated with business and networking. Many professionals use the golf course to connect with colleagues and clients. Dress codes play a crucial role in maintaining a professional environment that aligns with the expectations of corporate culture.

Dressing appropriately for golf showcases a level of professionalism that transcends the game itself. It demonstrates an understanding of the importance of presentation and how it can influence perceptions in the business world. By upholding dress codes, golfers not only honor the traditions of the sport but also position themselves as individuals who value professionalism and integrity in all aspects of their lives.

The Controversies Surrounding Golf Dress Codes

While dress codes serve a purpose, they can also be a source of controversy and discontent among golfers.

Golf dress codes have a long history rooted in tradition and etiquette. The idea of presenting oneself in a certain manner on the golf course dates back to the sport's origins in Scotland. The traditional attire of collared shirts, tailored trousers or shorts, and golf shoes was not just about appearance but also about showing respect for the game and the golf course.

Arguments Against Strict Dress Codes

Opponents of strict dress codes argue that they exclude potential players and limit the sport's accessibility. Golf should evolve to reflect the changing fashion trends and cultural norms, welcoming a broader range of individuals to participate.

While tradition plays a significant role in golf, there is a growing call for modernization in the sport's dress codes. Advocates for a more relaxed approach argue that allowing golfers to express their individuality through attire can make the game more appealing to a broader audience, especially the younger generation.

Others argue that dress codes prioritize appearance over skill and talent. They believe that a person's abilities on the golf course should be valued more than their outfit choices. By focusing too heavily on dress codes, the sport risks alienating potential players and stifling its growth.

The Impact on Amateur Players and Spectators

Amateur players often find themselves at odds with dress codes, particularly when enforced strictly. For many, golf is an opportunity to enjoy nature, relax, and have fun. Restrictive dress codes can dampen the enjoyment and freedom that amateurs seek on the golf course.

Similarly, spectators attending golf tournaments may feel that dress codes need to be more relaxed, preventing them from expressing their style. Relaxing dress codes could attract a more diverse and enthusiastic fan base, contributing to the overall growth and popularity of the sport.

As golf continues to balance tradition and modernization, the debate surrounding dress codes is likely to persist. Finding a middle ground that respects the game's heritage while embracing inclusivity and innovation may be the key to ensuring golf remains a beloved pastime for generations.

Two women on a golf course talking and smiling

The Future of Golf Dress Codes

Golf dress codes are not set in stone and are subject to change as the sport evolves. Understanding the importance of tradition while recognizing the need to adapt to modern times is crucial in shaping the future of golf attire.

One potential change in golf dress codes is the incorporation of sustainable and eco-friendly materials. With a growing emphasis on environmental conservation, golf apparel brands may start producing clothing using recycled fabrics or organic materials to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainability within the sport.

Potential Changes and Modernization

As society has become increasingly casual in its fashion choices, golf dress codes may adapt to reflect these changes. We may see a shift towards more relaxed guidelines that maintain a sense of decorum while accommodating modern fashion trends. This evolution could lead to a more diverse and inclusive golfing community where individuals feel comfortable expressing their style on the course.

Technical advancements in fabrics and apparel design will continue to shape golf fashion. Golfers can expect to see innovative materials that blend comfort and performance, allowing them to express their style without sacrificing functionality. From moisture-wicking fabrics to stretchable materials, golf attire is poised to become more versatile and comfortable than ever before.

Balancing Tradition and Inclusivity

The challenge lies in striking a balance between honoring the game's traditions and embracing inclusivity. By revisiting and updating dress codes, golf clubs can ensure that they remain relevant and welcoming to a diverse range of players and spectators. Embracing diversity in golf attire can enhance the game's overall experience, making it more accessible and appealing to a broader audience.

Open dialogue between golf clubs, players, and golf apparel brands is essential in evolving dress codes in a manner that preserves the sport's integrity while adapting to the needs and preferences of the modern golfer. By fostering collaboration and communication, the golfing community can work together to create a more inclusive and forward-thinking approach to dress codes, ensuring that the sport's traditions are upheld while also embracing the changing landscape of fashion and culture.


Golf dress codes have a long and storied history, reflecting the evolution of society and fashion trends. While they may continue to be a subject of debate, it is crucial to understand the purpose behind these dress codes. By striking a balance between tradition and inclusivity, the future of golf dress codes can remain respectful of the sport's heritage while adapting to the needs and expectations of today's golfers.

Golf dress codes have evolved, reflecting changes in society and the need for a balance between tradition and modernization. For players seeking style and performance on the course, Kinona offers a range of golf apparel that fits every dress code while embracing contemporary trends and functionality.